Over the last several days, while journalists have noted the downward spiral at work within the Alt-Right, in terms of fractures within the movement and declining numbers, several incidents have also played out which may signal a more violent turn by its adherents against autonomous social movements and radical spaces.
Last Saturday, Rob Cantrall, a member of the Proud Boys, was filmed on camera harassing staff members of Revolution Books in Berkeley, California. Cantrall and friends were returning from Sacramento after a right wing rally had fallen through, and decided to stop in Berkeley to take part in routine harassment of the small radical bookstore. In a video which has since gone viral, Cantrall, who is wearing a red MAGA hat is recorded as saying, “We’re going to burn down your store!”
On Facebook, Lauren White says “it’s ok to be racist.” In the attached photo of the two who went to harass @RevolutionBksB last weekend, Lauren is on the right. On the left is Rob Cantrell, a member of the Proud Boys who threatened to burn the bookstore down. pic.twitter.com/AIuJkvervi
— Berkeley Antifa (@berkeleyantifa) March 9, 2018
Then on Sunday night in Hamilton, Ontario, people broke the windows and overturned shelves at The Tower, an anarchist community center, in the wake of a rowdy march against gentrification where several store windows were broken. According to a statement released by staff members at The Tower:
We’ve received several specific threats from far-Right groups in the last few days foreshadowing the attacks on our space. Unsurprisingly, the local business class and the white supremacists who organized anti-immigrant demos in the city last year have found themselves on the same side.
The same night in San Diego, California an arson attack took place on the University of California campus at the Groundwork Book Collective. According to a press release from staff, an individual broke the windows in the front of the building, came inside and attempted to light a fire, and upon failing to do so, started a fire in the front of the store and then left.
At approximately 2:15 AM, March 4th, an individual approached the door of Groundwork Books Collective and shattered the door’s glass pane to gain entry. This individual entered the space and knocked over books, attempted to knock over shelves, and damaged property. They attempted arson but there was no permanent damage to the interior structure; upon failure, they opted to light an outside shelf on fire and succeeded in destroying it and the books.
Nothing of value was stolen from the collective; this was clearly a political attack. This comes in the wake of a series of right-wing and white supremacist activities: banner drops by these organizations, attempted intimidation in critical gender studies and ethnic studies classes, constant flyering not only at UCSD but also at SDSU, and threats of violence made against Revolution Books at UC Berkeley. Driven and emboldened by the rising right-wing momentum, someone was motivated to commit a felony against a student-run community bookstore on the basis of its political character. Because this is an attack on a truly independent student-run organization, this concerns the entire student body regardless of political orientation. By this violence they are trying to strike at the heart of the university itself, as a space for direct, open, political polemic and criticism. They seek to undermine our confidence and demoralize us. But our resolve and commitment to our political motivations and the student body remains strong. They have not succeeded, and we will make sure they won’t succeed.
The student body must stand with Groundwork Books and will not allow threats, intimidation, and violence. While they attack us in secret and by night, afraid of the students themselves, we will confront them directly and openly at every opportunity and on every platform. Do not allow these cowards to go unnoticed. Tear down their flyers, shame their recruiters, remind them why they are outcasts, and force them to return to their dens in shame.
The arson attack takes place after months of Alt-Right activity in San Diego, where universities have been targeted with flyers, classroom disruptions, and banner drops by neo-Nazi groups Patriot Front and Identity Evropa, both of which were involved in the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, as well as other violent neo-Nazi rallies across the country.
Just two days before the arson attack took place, Identity Evropa posted on their Twitter page that they had put up flyers and stickers at San Diego State University. These posters and stickers are only the latest in a string of incidents including banner drops and a disruption of one classroom on the University of California San Diego campus.
As the Triton News wrote:
In January, a UCSD student affiliated with the white supremacist group Identity Evropa disrupted a lecture with the intention to harass students, also dropping banners and distributing flyers on campus.
The Daily Aztec also noted that Identity Evropa has also hosted meetings on the State University campus:
In November of 2017, Identity Evropa held a private meeting on SDSU’s campus.
Patriot Front flyers put up at San Diego State University.
Members of Patriot Front, a re-launch of Vanguard America, the group that the suspected murderer of Heather Heyer was seen marching with in Charlottesville on August 12th, has also been active. Putting up posters at a variety of local colleges.
The current leader of Identity Evropa, Patrick Casey, is also a 2016 graduate from San Diego State University, and for years has engaged in outreach for the white supremacist organization at local universities. Other groups in the San Diego have also been active, and most recently have rallied against Chicano Park.
As the Alt-Right continues to splinter and break apart, factions within it will become more violent as they focus on attacking social movements building up opposition to white supremacy in working-class communities, in neighborhoods, and on campuses. These attacks on bookstores and community spaces should serve as a warning, but also an opportunity for people to come together and support revolutionary infrastructure, community centers, and bookstores.
Let’s beef up security and show solidarity with each other, but realize that these spaces are attacked because they are a center of our power. By expanding these spaces and making them stronger – while also making links with broader sections of the public, we will come out of these situations more powerful than when we went in.
If you are in the San Diego area, check out the community meeting at Groundwork Books on March 9th. Info here.